Gavin Sheehan is 2014 Geegeez Jockey of the Year
Who were the best jockeys in 2014?
This article looks at the jockeys who can lay claim to having been at the top of their peer group in the past twelve months. It is something of a fun post because there are as many ways of interpreting the best in a bunch as there are people with an opinion on the matter.
My starting point was to look at those jockeys who had ridden at least 75 horses from the first three in the betting in Britain and Ireland during 2014. Although lacking somewhat in finesse, this does at least offer a chance to compare the merits of a diverse and statistically significant group of riders.
Best Jockeys of 2014
Jockey performance can be judged by plenty of different measures, but surely the two most meaningful are:
- Win strike rate (from a mainly academic perspective)
- Win profit/loss (from a mainly pocket-driven perspective)
Highest Strike Rates on Fancied Runners
The first table, then, shows the jockeys who won the highest percentage of their rides on horses in the first three in the betting in 2014:
|Sheehan, Mr G
|Mullins, Mr P W
|Cooper, Bryan J
|McCoy, A P
|Geraghty, B J
|Power, R M
|O'Brien, J P
There are lots of conclusions to be drawn from this table, many of which may be obvious but are at least substantiated by the numbers.
First, it is utterly pointless backing either AP McCoy or Joseph O'Brien on fancied runners as a general principle. Their strike rates - around 30% - are impressive enough, except that they haemorrhage punters' pennies.
In both cases, a large proportion of the mounts in this sample are sent off favourite (as opposed to second or third market choice). And in both cases, blindly backing market leaders has led to only flesh wounds to the betting bank.
Rather, it is the subset of McCoy / O'Brien horses (falsely?) promoted to second or third favouritism which causes the significant leakage.
On the more positive side, the main man of 2014, in both strike rate and profit terms, has been Gavin Sheehan. Originally annexed to the Charlie Mann yard, Sheehan moved to Warren Greatrex in August, having ridden out his claim - as all National Hunt jockeys do in UK on the occasion of their 75th winner - on 19th April.
This can be a curse for many riders, but not young Gavin, who has added a further 56 wins to his palmarès since then. Whilst the bulk of those have been for Greatrex, he's ridden eight winners (from 30 rides) for Mann in his eight 'unconditional' months, and one apiece for another thirteen stables.
Feel The Power
In Ireland, although the likes of Ruby Walsh, Patrick Mullins and, to lesser degree, Paul Townend and Bryan Cooper are largely on the market radar, the most interesting entry in the high strike rate list is Robbie Power. Power has been around for a long time, and he rode Silver Birch to win the 2007 Grand National. But he's never been so prolific - or so profitable - as he has this year.
So what's changed? Two things, actually.
Firstly, Power has been getting the majority of rides for Aidan O'Brien's resurgent National Hunt string. He's won on a third of the 39 horses he's ridden for O'Brien in the 2014/15 season, which is ten more wins - and thirty more rides - than the next most patronized pilot.
And secondly, he's enjoyed a bit of a renaissance when riding for Jessie Harrington. Power's overall 2014 figures have the look of happenstance about them when taken in the longer term context of his performance. And I'd not be betting on him continuing the fine run he's enjoyed during the last twelve months.
The Best of the Best?
The last thing to take from this table is the performance of Barry Geraghty. For such a high profile rider as Geraghty to ride at such a high strike rate on fancied horses, and still make a profit for backers at SP, is quite a remarkable achievement.
And the evidence of why Geraghty may be the best of the best was seen - circumstantially at least - at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, when Geraghty twice rode the legs off Tony McCoy. On the Tuesday, BJ tactically outclassed AP as he squirted his mount, Jezki, up the rail and stole an ultimately insurmountable march from McCoy on My Tent Or Yours, bullying the latter between the last two. I backed the second to win plenty, and was undone by a tactical masterclass.
To prove that was no fluke, Geraghty repeated the dose on another McManus 'second string', as More Of That had his powder kept dry until the last before asserting past At Fisher's Cross - steered and cajoled by McCoy - and Annie Power. The mare gave Geraghty more to think about, but our Barry was having none of it atop his willingly progressive partner.
Top man, that Geraghty. Top man.
Most Profitable Jockeys of 2014
There's little sense dwelling on this table for too long, as it can be a case of the profit tail wagging the performance dog. Nevertheless, it is worth scouting those fellows that put the most theoretical profit into punters' pockets in the outgoing year.
|Sheehan, Mr G
|Power, R M
|Keane, C T
|Berry, F M
Be Keane on the Fabulous Baker Boy
Take a bow, Gavin. As previously mentioned, Sheehan's was a cracking effort to top both the strike rate and profit charts in 2014. Mr Power has also been mentioned above, but George Baker, Daniel Tudhope and, in Ireland, Colin Keane, are all worthy of comment.
Each has ridden at least 200 horses sent off in the top three in the market, so to record profit at starting price is some achievement. Tudhope has been helped enormously by riding for David O'Meara, but then the reciprocal is also true.
George Baker's performance as a freelancer is arguably the most impressive. He rode winners for no less than 47 trainers against the above criteria, and he rode multiple winners for 26 different handlers. Baker is well worth following on fancied horses, as he's made an SP profit in this context in all bar one of the last five seasons.
Likewise, Colin Keane has been profitable to follow at SP in all four of his professional riding seasons; though, unlike Baker, most of his wins were achieved for a single trainer, Ger Lyons. Specifically, 35 of his 54 wins on horses in the top three of the betting in 2014 were for Lyons.
Moreover, Keane failed to make the frame for just ten of the 32 trainers for whom he rode, nine of those on solitary runners.
Finally, it's sad in a way to relate that another Grand National-winning jockey, Ryan Mania - who bagged the 2013 renewal aboard 66/1 poke Auroras Encore - hung up his boots in November. He was the tenth most profitable fellow to follow against the criteria of this piece, but reportedly lost his love for the game, presumably on account of ongoing battles with wanting to eat the same amount that most 'normal' humans do.
A large number of jockeys are superhuman but, even amongst such dedicated souls, there are super-super-humans, as the numbers above attest.
p.s. Tomorrow, the top trainers of 2014...